If you’re running in circles just to keep up, you probably think adding stress reduction practices to your schedule will stress you out more.
But there’s good news about chronic stress: If you give your mind and body a break from it for a few minutes each day, you can reverse its negative effects. So even if you have only five minutes to spare, you can start cutting your stress.
These stress-busting techniques may sound too easy—and they are simple—but they are quite effective at lowering blood pressure, reducing blood sugar and helping you lose weight.
Get a massage. Stop thinking of massage as a special occasion treat, and start seeing it as a way to dramatically lower your stress levels. Researchers found folks who received Swedish massages exhibited significant decreases in the levels of cortisol—that stress hormone—in their body. Even light massage has been shown to increase oxytocin levels, which is associated with the warm fuzzies.
Head outdoors. Whether it’s a five-minute romp in the park or a longer stroll through the botanical gardens, being outside can boost your mood.
Breathe. Stress makes your breathing shallower, which contributes to you feeling more stressed. Break the cycle by learning to breathe correctly. Lie on the floor. Put one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest, over your heart. As you inhale, feel your hands move. Pause, and then exhale.
Laugh. It may sound like a cliche, but laughter really is good medicine. It can relieve pain, strengthen your immune system, increase the flow of blood to your organs and ease stress. And, believe it or not, laughter burns calories. One study showed hearty laughing causes a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in energy expenditure and heart rate. Other research shows daily laughter can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. So keep those kitten videos coming!
Meditate. Time-tested meditation is a powerful medication. In addition to helping fix medical problems, including reducing pain, easing depression and managing HIV symptoms, meditation also helps you improve focus and boost creativity. Ready to give it a try? Follow these steps: Find a quiet space. Get in a comfortable position and rest your hands on your thighs. Focus on your breathing. (Take deep breaths in, and then slowly let each breath out.) Over time, finding your zen zone will become easier, and you’ll feel stress leaving your body.